Ask the Vet

Calves Act Strangely Around Gate

As calves get older, they may not always follow the herd. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)


I had a couple of calves that would not go through the gate when we were rotating pastures. All the rest of the herd would go through, but they would get to the gate and just stop and then run off. We finally took them through another gate. We have never had this happen before. I know young calves can be hard to handle, but these just acted very strange. Any ideas on why?


Calves, especially when they get old enough to become "independent of momma," can make herding cattle difficult at best. The rules often just don't seem to apply to them -- kinda like teenagers!

While I can't tell you what those calves were thinking, I'm wondering if the fence that gate connects to is electric. If so, consider the possibility of stray voltage.

Use your digital voltmeter to check the ground for stray voltage. If you find any, check connections, underground wire and/or the line for any shorts. Make sure you have adequate, properly installed ground rods. If there is nothing obvious, call the company that made your charger or talk to the folks who sold it to you for help in troubleshooting.

Stray voltage is a more common problem than many farmers realize. It often arises from the electrical supply and wiring around barns, water troughs, and lines and feeding areas. To some degree, it is always present at low levels that don't cause problems. But if livestock are behaving abnormally for no apparent reason, it would be one of the first things I'd check.


Editor's Note:

Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd or other animals. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

Write Dr. Ken McMillan at Ask the Vet, 2204 Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email